Rotating Huawei chairman Guo Ping toyed with his keynote audience, initially making light of recent scrutiny of the vendor’s security credentials, before turning the attention to the US’ own controversial data gathering practices.

“There has never been more interest in Huawei. We must be doing something right”, was his opening gambit, before he focused on how the company’s heavy investment in R&D has paid off in terms of delivering a leading position in 5G technology.

However, Guo noted the next-generation technology was a double-edged sword, with recognition of Huawei’s achievements offset by, and perhaps helping to generate, the security speculation.

“We can create powerful, simple and intelligent 5G networks for carriers. Huawei is leading in 5G globally, but we understand innovation is nothing without security.”

Guo aimed his remarks squarely at the US, which has driven the majority of speculation over Huawei’s security credentials. The country has pushed for international governments to follow its lead by banning Chinese equipment vendors from key 5G infrastructure deployments.

“Prism, Prism on the wall, who’s the most trustworthy of them all” he asked, referring to a US National Security Agency (NSA) programme which collected data from internet providers that only came to light after NSA contractor Edward Snowden blew the whistle.

If the implication the US was not an innocent in terms of monitoring online communications was not enough, Guo hammered the point home: “The irony is that the US Cloud Act allowed their entities to access data across borders.”

He noted the US has not presented any evidence of Huawei enabling China’s government to access communications in a similar manner, highlighting the vendor’s 30-year track record of delivering equipment which is used by 3 billion people across the world.

“Let me say this as clearly as possible: Huawei has…never built backdoors, and we will never allow anyone to do so in our equipment. We take this responsibility very seriously.”

Guo argued Huawei has fulfilled its obligations in terms of security, noting that securing user data and information requires a collaborative approach from equipment vendors, mobile operators and standards bodies. “With 5G we have made a lot of progress over 4G and we can proudly say that 5G is safer than 4G.”

He stated responsibility for securing networks lies with carriers deploying firewalls and security gateways to prevent external attacks; and monitoring systems to ensure internal safety.

“As a vendor, we don’t operate carriers’ networks and we don’t all carry data. Our responsibility, what we’ve promised is that we don’t do anything bad. We don’t do bad things.”

Guo cited the Network Equipment Security Assurance Scheme (NESA) as an example. This voluntary programme was developed by the 3GPP and GSMA to define the evidence required to define the security of network equipment based on guidelines covering vendors’ development and product lifecycle processes.

“Huawei fully supports this scheme,” he said, noting that many of the 3GPP standards used in the programme were “created with the support of many governments’ security agencies”.

Those same agencies “have strong capabilities to verify 5G security” he noted, adding: “Let the experts decide whether networks are safe or not.”